Confused about what to wash your baby’s clothes in? We test five of the gentlest laundry detergents on the market.
1kg RRP $9.99
35 loads per box = 29c per load
An ultra-mild formulation that is suitable for sensitive skin. Made in New Zealand and Green Tick Sustainable certified. The packaging is recyclable, including the cardboard scoop. Other products in the laundry range include Laundry Soaker, Laundry Fabric Conditioner, and Stain Remover.
The good bits: With no synthetic dyes or perfumes, phosphate-free, and suitable for both front- and top-loaders (we used a front-loader, which is why there were 35 loads per box — for a top-loader, you do get less loads, so pay attention to the measuring scoop as it’s calibrated for both), the divine natural lavender essential oil used in this powder makes it the best-smelling of the lot, without being overpowering. Easily removed dirt, tomato sauce, chocolate, and urine, with no residual stains. A pair of white shorts with blood on them (from a scraped knee) needed soaking and another wash to get it out, but a mark from a permanent ink felt-tip marker faded quite a bit with just one wash, when we didn’t expect it to come out at all.
The tricky bits: The powder is a wee bit clumpy in the box, and we did find some un-dissolved bits on our washing when we washed a very full load of towels. The scoop can be a little tricky to use, as it’s very deep and you need to use a shovelling action to get the powder to the bottom.
Bottom line: A lovely smelling, great homegrown choice that was good value for money (especially if you are using a front-loader) and worked well.
Persil Small & Mighty Liquid
Low-Suds Sensitive for Front-Loaders
14 loads per bottle = 50c per load
Part of Persil’s new effort to downsize their product sizes without compromising on effectiveness, this little bottle is the equivalent of a 1.4L as the bottle says it’s “3x concentrated”. Use only one capful per wash — and it’s a small one — for the same results as the bigger amounts. The bottle is recyclable (and won’t take up much room in your recycling bin as it’s so small). A dual-enzyme formulation and pre-treaters mean you don’t have to slave over stain remover before you pop your soiled washing into the machine. There are 10 products in the range — five powders and five liquid detergents — giving you lots of choice.
The good bits: We admit it — we were skeptical, because it is a REALLY small bottle (especially compared to the old stuff). But the customer service rep we spoke to on Persil’s 0800 line promised us 14 loads, and that’s precisely what we got. It handled dirt, tomato sauce, chocolate, and urine well, and also did a good job on a bloodstain (better than any of the other products we tested). The permanent ink faded slightly as well, and faded even more on a subsequent wash. The Persil website has great stain-removal advice, which we admit we didn’t follow as we wanted to see how the product performed on its own — and we were impressed. Good in warm and cold water.
The tricky bits: Using the cap as a measuring device was a little bit messy, as we did get some drips down the outside of the bottle once we’d replaced it after use.
Bottom line: Good value for money, and worked like it said it should.
Non-Biological Ecover Ecological Washing Powder
12 loads per box = $1.37 per load
The company behind Ecover is committed to making high-quality products that are kind to the environment but still work well. Completely biodegradable, this was definitely the most expensive washing powder we tried, and the most
suited to sensitive skin (including eczema). Fragrance-free and made from plant-based ingredients, it also has a minimum impact on aquatic life. The box is made of 95% recycled cardboard. The laundry range contains 10 products, including Laundry Liquid, Delicate Wash, Fabric Softeners, Bleach, Stain Remover, and Bio Washing Tablets, giving you excellent choice.
The good bits: It was hard to get used to a washing powder without any added fragrance, but this is actually fantastic for those who are sensitive to perfumes. Great for washing baby clothes in particular. It easily handled dirt and urine. Chocolate, tomato sauce, and blood faded almost completely, but required a second wash to completely come out. The permanent ink also faded a bit, but was still noticeable. They also have a great website with lots of product information on it, and information about their philosophy, so you really feel like you can understand the brand.
The tricky bits: Opening the box! One of those ones with the side-to-side pull strip that never quite seems to rip the way it says it should. But that’s likely because the box is made of incredibly sturdy cardboard — our tester had a hard time flattening it for the recycling bin! Also, the price was a bit off-putting, especially finding out that one box only does 12 loads.
Bottom line: Pricey, but worth it, especially if you’re perfume-intolerant or have very sensitive skin.
Ecostore Plant- and Mineral-Based Concentrate Laundry Powder
1kg RRP $10.95
25 loads per box = 44c per load
Skin-friendly and garden-friendly, it contains no “nasty” chemicals and contains no skin-irritating enzymes, optical brighteners, phosphates or other potentially harmful chemicals. The Ecostore website says that this detergent is so gentle, you can pour the waste water straight into your vege garden. The laundry range contains eight products, including Laundry Liquid, Wool Wash, Fabric Softener, Pure Oxygen Whitener, and Stain Remover.
The good bits: We know several families who use this to wash the clothing of their children with eczema, so figured we were on to a winner. It doesn’t really have a scent, so would be suitable for people who are perfume-intolerant. Great on tomato sauce, chocolate, and urine. Strangely, dirt didn’t come out on the first wash, but the second wash it was pristine. Permanent ink faded, and blood came out on the second wash. Performed well in both warm- and cold-water washes.
The tricky bits: Our one big gripe with this washing powder is that it comes in a twist-tied plastic bag inside a cardboard box. So the box and the plastic scoop are recyclable, but the plastic bag and twist tie just end up in the rubbish bin — and then in a landfill. We’d love to see this change.
Bottom line: A reliable and eco-friendly choice we like a lot.
250g bag RRP$15.90
90 loads per bag = 18c per load
Yes, these little things certainly look weird, and the way they work is even weirder — but stay with us, as this product is so fascinating, we had to include it in our trial. SoapNuts — also known as washberries, soapberries, ritha, reetha, or waschnusse (our favourite) — are a dried berry from the Sapindus Mukorossi tree, which grows wild in the Himalayas. SoapNuts contain saponin, a natural surfactant that, when it comes into contact with water, creates mild soapsuds. They are naturally anti-fungal, antimicrobial, biodegradable, and hypoallergenic.
The good bits:This product surprised the heck out of us because it really did work, and worked well. Better in warm and hot water, but okay in cold water. It handled dirt and urine well. Chocolate, tomato sauce, and blood needed a second washing to fully come out. The permanent ink faded a little, but not as much as the other products caused it to. The SoapNut Shop website says you don’t need to add fabric softener, so we didn’t, and clothes were fine.
The tricky bits: When you use SoapNuts, you have to add six to eight SoapNuts to a small cloth bag and pull the drawstring shut. Then you simply toss the bag right into your washing machine with the clothes. After you’ve used the SoapNuts five or so times, dump them out of the bag into your compost heap and put new soapnuts into the bag. You can add essential oil to the little bag if you want scented laundry. A little labour-intensive, but not too bad.
Bottom line: An excellent, all-natural alternative to traditional laundry detergents that’s great value for money.
As seen in OHbaby! magazine Issue 6: 2009
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